Brock University is gearing up for the Social Justice and Equity Graduate Program’s tenth Niagara Social Justice Forum. The day-long program involving activities, workshops, performances and also features an information fair during the lunchtime.
“It’s based on the World Social Forum,” says Mary Breunig, the Graduate Program Director of Social Justice and Equity Studies. “It brings together Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s), advocacy groups, and informal and formal social movements, all seeking international solidarity.”
“It’s an open space that’s non-partisan that tries to decentralize debate, bring in reflection, build constituencies, and create new alliances for social movements and organizations all with the effort to bringing a stronger solidarity, democratic and free world.”
The local forum will also delve into topics that are especially prominent within Niagara and the Brock community.
The goal of the event is to build relationships between student groups, activists, researchers and community organizers working on issues involving social justice, diversity and difference. Activities and workshops are based around this ultimate goal, which is why so many different subjects of social justice and activism will be covered during the forum.
The workshop’s concepts range from how to engage in activism in the Niagara region, wage-ism, humane jobs, Palestine and Israel, activism through silence, multinationals, gender sexuality and disability, cultural sensitivity and inclusion, and social justice on Brock’s campus.
“We were fairly intentional about reviewing workshops” Breunig says. “Selecting the 12 that we did, then seeing what gaps there were so that we could try to make it as expansively representative as it could be.”
Because of the amount of workshops offerable, many will be running at the same time which gives the attendee the option of picking and choosing which ones most interest them during registration.
One aspect of the day they really wanted to work on was keeping most of the forum as local as possible instead of reaching out to larger cities like Toronto to speak on behalf of the diversity in the Niagara region.
“One of the things we thought about with the forum this year was how many people for these events were brought in from Toronto,” Breunig says.
“And how there is more representation in Niagara than we sometimes are aware of or draw on. One of the specific goals this year was to stay pretty regional in our thinking around who was presenting at the forum, particularly around the plenary.”
Breunig hopes that the forum can show that the region has a strong intersectional diversity and that, while it may not be as visible as in cities like Toronto, it is just as important to recognize it within our own community.
What is most important, Breunig says, is to try to attract people that may not have a strong foundation in social justice. Many of the 150 people who attend the event do so every year and while this is a great way of coming together to communicate ways in which social justice changes, it is just as important to get new voices into the mix.
The event will be held February 3 at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) and is entirely free to attend whether you are a Brock student or community member; the event will also provide a free lunch for attendees and childcare for those who need it. For more information as well as information on registration, please visit: https://niagarasocialjusticeforum.wordpress.com
Along with the forum itself, the organizers of the Niagara Social Justice Forum would also like to promote the Vagina Monologues which will be performed at the First Ontario Performing Art Centre (FOPAC) the evening of Feb 3 as well as Feb 4.